A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard with some unusual help — a sheriff's search-and-rescue team.
Paleontologist Howell Thomas of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County says the 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen whale fossils known to exist.
The fossil, lodged in 1,000-pound rock, was hoisted from a ravine by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department search-and-rescue volunteers. Using pulleys and a steel trolley, crews pulled the fossil up a steep backyard slope and into a truck bound for the museum.
The fossil was discovered by 53-year-old Gary Johnson when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family's home. Johnson called Thomas after a whale fossil was recovered in January at a nearby school.